Third time’s the charm? In 2019, we reported that Jagex was reportedly being purchased by a company called Platinum Equity. That never materialized, but the RuneScape maker announced in April 2020 that a deal had, in fact, been made with a firm calling itself Platinum Fortune, which was itself owned by another company, Macarthur Fortune Holding LLC.
That deal raised all kinds of red flags, with prospective buyer Plutos Sama showing court documents that indicated the deal had not been finalized, owing to Platinum Fortune not actually possessing the capital required to close the deal — despite insistence from the company saying that it had. As we reported at the time, this meant that one of two things would happen: Platinum Fortune would demonstrate that it possessed the required funds and complete the purchase or it would not, and Jagex’s owner, Shanghai Fukong Interactive, would look for another buyer.
That second scenario appears to have played itself out, as Jagex today announced that it has been acquired by investment firm The Carlyle Group for an undisclosed sum. You can read the press release announcing the acquisition on Jagex’s or Carlyle’s websites. Neither company makes mention of last year’s sale/non-sale.
Apart from Jagex, most of Carlyle’s other assets are companies that most of us wouldn’t recognize in tech, infrastructure, and other fields. Notable exceptions include the Hertz car-rental agency and market research firm Nielsen (which owns SuperData), both of which Carlyle has a stake in.
This brings us back around — for the third time in as many years — to what this deal means for Jagex and RuneScape going forward. And, as I’ve said multiple times already, the answer is likely to be “virtually none.” RuneScape has been successful for 20 years, surviving the earlier sale to Shanghai Fukong in 2016 unscathed, and there’s little reason to think anything will change now.
If anything, it might mean that the company will have greater flexibility to pursue other ventures, which have proven relatively unsuccessful in the past. In the announcement, Jagex CEO Phil Mansell said that the new ownership would allow his company to “build new games to expand and further explore the RuneScape universe [and] lend our expertise to publish third-party games from like-minded online game developers.” The first Jagex Partners title is scheduled to be published later this year.
UPDATE: Did we say everything was finalized? When it comes to the sale of Jagex, we should know better by now.
Plutos Sama is apparently not yet out of the conversation, as the company has filed injunctive relief to prevent the purported sale of Jagex to Carlyle, claiming that it won an auction in September for “55% of Jagex and its parent company from seller Huarong Trust.”
At the heart of the controversy is one Yan Jinggang, described in court documents as “establisher and controller of Shanghai Zhongji Group, shareholder of Fukong.” Plutos Sama alleges him to be the mastermind of a scheme that resulted in Fukong’s financial distress and its willingness to sell off Jagex. As a result of Yan’s allegedly using stolen money to facilitate the sale in early 2020, Plutos Sama broke off its limited partnership with Platinum Fortune, which led to Platinum’s later deal to purchase Jagex through Macarthur Fortune.
As if all that wasn’t enough, the former chairman of Huarong, Lin Xiaoxuan, who loaned money to Yan, was expelled from the Communist Party of China and sentenced to death for bribery by the country earlier this month.
We’ll have more on this story as details become available.
UPDATE, Jan. 26: A Jagex representative told GamesIndustry.biz that Plutos Sama’s “allegations are meritless in all respects, and we will deal with the situation accordingly.” Similarly, Jagex CEO Phil Mansell said that “We can confirm Carlyle has acquired Jagex regardless of any claims made by third parties in relation to the deal.” It should be noted that Jagex said the same thing about its earlier sale/non-sale to Macarthur Fortune in April.